A Japanese woman is giving up her child and suing her sperm donor after she learned he lied about his ethnicity and educational background.
The woman, a Tokyo resident in her 30s, shares a child with her husband and was seeking to have a second child. But after learning her partner had a hereditary disease, the woman decided to find a sperm donor on social media. The donor she chose claimed he was Japanese and a graduate from the prestigious Kyoto University, and they had sex 10 times to get pregnant, Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun reported.
But after getting pregnant in June 2019, the woman discovered that the donor was actually Chinese. He also went to a different university and hid the fact he was married. By the time she knew of his true identity, it was too late to abort the baby, and she has since given up the child for adoption. The woman filed a lawsuit against the sperm donor last month for 330 million yen ($2.86 million) for emotional distress.
In Japan, sperm donations are practically unregulated.
The entire country of 126 million has just one commercial sperm bank, which was only founded in June. Artificial insemination by donor—a procedure that involves inserting sperm into a person’s uterus—is limited to married couples, thereby excluding single women and LGBTQ couples. Even for those eligible, a mere 12 hospitals in the entire country conduct such fertility treatment.
Such lack of choice forces many Japanese people to look for alternative ways of obtaining sperm. It’s created a whole underground market, with many of the transactions occurring on social media.
Misa, a lesbian who’s used social media to find a sperm donor, acknowledged how difficult it was to obtain a sperm donation in Japan. “But if this woman still wanted to go through with this underground process, she clearly didn’t understand that it would be at her own risk,” she told VICE World News.
“Of course, the best thing would be if there were proper laws in place regarding sperm donation,” Misa said, who asked to use her first name only for privacy reasons.
VICE World News could not reach the woman who filed the lawsuit, her lawyer, or the sperm donor, who were not named in Japanese news reports.
Japan currently doesn’t have any laws that regulate commercial sperm and egg banks. In its absence, medical institutions have been spearheading artificial insemination procedures since 1948.
But access to this treatment is greatly limited, even for married couples who are legally allowed to get this care. Couples can also find donors from international sperm banks like Cryos, which serves more than 100 countries, though such services are costlier than local services.
On the other hand, sperm donations from third parties found on social media offer a cheap—sometimes even free—solution, despite concerns about health and legal risks.
According to the woman’s lawyer, she decided to sue the sperm donor to prevent future victims from being targeted.
“In Japan, there is no public system or legal system for sperm donation,” her lawyer said during a press conference on Tuesday, as reported by Japanese broadcaster TBS News. The lawyer also said the woman suffers from sleeping disorders and gave up the child, an act which has generated much public backlash.
Mizuho Sasaki, who works at a child welfare facility, called the woman “shallow.”
“It’s unacceptable to treat the child like an object,” she told VICE World News. “But I think it’s better to leave the kid with someone who can be a good foster parent.”